Editorial: Decision time

Decision making on new town and school budget proposals for the coming year returns for voters on Tuesday. Will you take the time to vote or join the many thousand no-shows who do not bother?

There’s the more than $47.8 million in spending on town and school operations, including the town budget of $14 million, up 2.66%, Redding’s school budget of $21.3 million, down 0.45%, and the town’s share ($12.3-million, up 0.46%) of the $23 million Region 9 budget, up 1.97%.

Your yes vote can be one that supports the direction in which town and school officials are taking town and school operations and in recognition of the hard work by these officials — many of them volunteers putting in long hours as budget planners. It can be a vote of confidence on keeping budget proposals to reasonable, smart and small increases.

There are capital projects for voters to weigh in on, including the Barlow roof replacement project that’s back, at slightly more than $1 milllion. Upkeep on town assets and infrastructure is important and this project deserves support, as do many of the others, like the elementary and middle school site work needing atttention and parking lots in need of repaving.

Also back is the conversion of a field at the Redding Community Center from natural grass to artificial turf at an estimated cost of $660,000. Opponents argue they voted this down three years ago and raise some questions ranging from concerns over escalating cost to the grant process to environmental issues. Critics have a philosophical difference on supporting a project for which they feel the groups using the field should pay or raise more of the money themselves and not burden taxpayers.

Recreation commissioners and other town officials urge support for the turf field that they say would benefit many in town, not just kids. The new field is needed also so other, overused fields can be properly rested, proponents say. Redding’s population is aging, and the town, to keep vibrant, needs to attract more young families to move in. New and improved recreational facilities could help keep the town attractive to families with children.

Other important projects facing voters are included in a front page story. Many residents share their views on these pages. Take the time to read and learn as much as you can  before you vote.

Two years ago, the town budget passed by just 35 yes votes, when about 5,650 registered voters did not bother to go to the polls or fill out an absentee ballot. Only one more Redding voter voted on the school budget.  Only about 19% of registered voters participated that spring.

Last spring, a total of 967 voters,  or 13.8%, took part in the vote on the town budget, and 974 or, 13.9%, in voting on school budget proposals. More than 6,000 voters stayed away.

The Redding League of Women Voters, in a letter this week to The Pilot, urged “residents to mark their calendars now to vote in the annual budget referendum next Tuesday.” “At the end of May our town celebrates Memorial Day, and those who gave their lives to protect our way of life,” wrote Natalie Ketcham, president of the league, which likes to point out that democracy is not a spectator sport. “What better way to start the month than to honor their sacrifice by taking the time to vote? It is a privilege not to be taken lightly. Men and women have died so that we could do it. So, please do it. Vote.”

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